Football News

Best wonderkid you haven’t heard of? Rio Ferdinand reveals who Arsenal staff are most excited about: “It’s a joke”

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:53, 1 January 2022

Rio Ferdinand has believes Arsenal youngster Charlie Patino could be the best player to come out of the club’s academy in recent years.

Patino made his first-team Arsenal debut in the EFL Cup last month, coming on for the final 10 minutes of the Gunners’ 5-1 win over Sunderland. And it was a debut for the 18-year-old to remember, as he put the gloss on the victory with the fifth strike in injury time, tapping home from Nicolas Pepe’s pass.

Alongside Eddie Nketiah’s hat-trick, it was a moment to show the quality of the players that are coming through the Arsenal academy right now, following the successes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in the first team.

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Only turning 18 in October, nobody expects Patino to join the likes of Smith Rowe and Saka in the first team immediately, and he has only appeared in the matchday squad on one other occasion – being an unused substitute in Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Norwich City on Boxing Day.

But Patino’s quality and potential is there to see, and those who have watched him play only speak highly of the midfielder. One of his admirers is former Manchester United defender Ferdinand, who was high in praise of Patino’s playing style and mentality.

“Go on YouTube and watch his clips, it’s a joke what you see, the talent he’s got,” he told BT Sport.

“I’ve spoken to people at Arsenal and what they say about him in terms of this kid, talent-wise, could potentially be the best of the lot that’s come out in recent years.

“It’s a huge bar but this kid has the talent I think, and the big, big part of him is the mentality. If you talk to anybody who knows him, mentally, he doesn’t get carried away, doesn’t get too low, doesn’t get too high.

“Very balanced kid but has all the fundamentals in his game to really really go to the top of the tree.

“I think he’ll get the opportunities here [at Arsenal]. I think Mikel Arteta is somebody, we’ve seen with Emile Smith Rowe, with [Bukayo] Saka, he’s introducing the young players.

“And this kid is the next on the runway to come out and I just feel when you watch him, there’s a beautiful way he plays, the balance, the rhythm.

“The fans will enjoy watching him here and what I like about him here, is when he came on the other day they were singing his name. They know what they’ve got here, they’ve got to let him breathe into it.”

Ferdinand is not the only ex-pro to speak highly of Patino, however. Former Arsenal midfielder Michael Thomas had similar words to Ferdinand recently, backing Patino to join the likes of Saka and Smith Rowe in breaking through to the first team.

He told CaughtOffside: “He has been really impressive in the way he controls games at the youth ages for some time now.

“I have seen him a fair bit and he always leaves me with a sense of a footballer above the age bracket he’s playing in.

“He is 100% a player I expect Arsenal fans to see a lot more of in the future. He has a manager that trusts young players which is always helpful and the path is clear, as seen with the likes of Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.”